Being smart doesn’t mean you’re willing to be wrong – even when you are

Published by Tony Quinlan on

A great little story and point from Lorimer Moseley's Body in Mind blog: Does vertebroplasty for osteoporosis-related fractures work

In short:

Clear scientific trials (rigorously done with sham interventions mimicking all but the one crucial element of a real intervention) has shown that a particular treatment was no better than a pretend treatment. The results were presented back to a highly-intelligent audience, who then interrogated the results and the method. And some began to search for the reasons why the research was flawed and why their preconceptions still held.

My favourite phrase from Lorimer is:

Some of the room were observing it all and with open minds voiced that even here, amongst the keener, more learned, more expert clinicians in the country, showing that it doesn’t work, doesn’t work;

There's a part of me that wants to know, in that case, what does work – but the truth of course is that what works in one place won't in another.

But it makes me reflect on much of the work we've done in the past couple of years using SenseMaker and other research methods – sometimes the results come back and tell clients that long-held beliefs are wrong. And it's easy for the results (and the project and our credibility) to be thrown out at that point – it happened on some of the early projects. Increasingly, therefore, the project needs more touchpoints and communication with clients, so that they undertake the journey of exploration with us – meaning that there are moments early on when entrenched beliefs are lightly questioned, when the possibility of alternative options is raised, when those options start to gain ground, etc. A single final presentation (with all the tempting showmanship of "Ta-Daa!" as you throw open the curtains to display your fabulous results) is a sure way to get the results dismissed – and you with them.

The ideal, of course, would be that clients use SenseMaker themselves to explore the results and reach their own conclusions, but that's still a step further than we've managed so far. The talk is always there, but the reality is another matter…